Former president Obama slams Trump's handling of coronavirus outbreak
Former US President slams incumbent Donald Trump's handling of outbreak in web call with former staffers
WASHINGTON: Former president Barack Obama has launched a scathing attack on current president Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, calling it an "absolute chaotic disaster".
In a leaked web call Friday night with former members of his administration, Mr Obama also said the Justice Department's decision to drop charges against Michael Flynn, the former Trump national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the Russia probe, endangers the rule of law in the US.
In the audio, first obtained by Yahoo News, Mr Obama urges former staffers to join him in rallying behind Mr Joe Biden as he prepares to take on Mr Trump in the November presidential election.
"What we're fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided, and seeing others as an enemy - that has become a stronger impulse in American life," he said.
"It's part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anaemic and spotty.
"It would have been bad even with the best of governments. It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset - of 'what's in it for me' and 'to heck with everybody else' - when that mindset is operationalised in our government."
The daily toll continued to be high with more than 1,560 coronavirus deaths reported in the US by yesterday morning (Singapore time), bringing the country's total to about 78,800.
It has more than 1.3 million cases, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally.
Mr Obama said that the dropping of charges against Flynn was ominous.
"That's the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic - not just institutional norms - but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk," he said.
Mr Obama endorsed Mr Biden's candidacy last month and has said he would be deeply involved in his campaign against Mr Trump.
He told the 3,000-strong Obama Alumni Association: "I am hoping that all of you feel the same sense of urgency that I do."
Mr Obama's office declined to comment.
In a separate development, three senior officials guiding the US response to the coronavirus pandemic were in self-quarantine on Saturday after coming into contact with someone who had tested positive for the disease, their agencies and spokesmen said.
Dr Anthony Fauci, a high-profile member of the White House coronavirus response team, is considered to be at relatively low risk based on the degree of his exposure, according to a representative for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Dr Fauci, the 79-year-old director of that institute, has tested negative for Covid-19 and he will continue to be tested regularly, the official said in an e-mailed statement.
The others are Dr Robert Redfield, 68, director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, who is 60. - AFP, REUTERS